Vets Attracted to Rural Counties, Smaller Cities
Military veterans disproportionately live in rural and exurban communities. And vets who live in cities are much more likely to live in smaller urban areas, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census.
Military veterans are least likely to live in the centers of the nation’s financial, political and media power — New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. Those areas have among the lowest percentages of veterans in the population of any of the nation’s communities.
Rural and exurban counties were home to 30.6 percent of the nation’s 22.6 million veterans. But these same counties represent just 25.9 percent of all residents over 18 years of age.
Military veterans make up 11.7 percent of the adult populations in rural and exurban counties. In urban counties, however, vets are 9.3 percent of those over 18.
(Exurban counties are in metropolitan regions, but nearly half of the people living there are in rural settings. These are counties that lie on the edge of larger metro areas.)
Nationally, 9.9 percent of the population over 18 years of age has served in the military. The map above shows counties that are above the national average of 9.9 percent in purple. Those with vets at or below the national average are in green.
Click on the map to see a much larger version.
There are over 1,900 rural and exurban counties with a higher proportion of vets than the U.S. average. (They are in dark purple.) Only 642 rural or exurban counties have below average veteran populations (shown in light green.)
Similarly, urban counties with higher than average vet populations (in light purple) outnumber cities with below average numbers of veterans three to two. But the counties with a small proportion of veterans are among the nation’s most populous.
Veterans disproportionately live rural and exurban counties — and in smaller cities.
Urban counties with a larger proportion of vets average 268,000 people.
Urban counties with a smaller proportion of veterans than the country as a whole have an average population of 619,000.
The U.S. cities with the smallest proportions of veterans are among the nation’s most notable and influential. Veterans make up only 3.7 percent of New York County’s adult population, for example — 4 percent in the Bronx and 6.5 percent in Westchester County.
Veterans are 5 percent of the adult population in Los Angeles County; 4.8 percent of San Francisco County; 4.5 percent of Suffolk County (Boston); 5.6 percent of California’s Santa Clara County; 6.7 percent in Harris County (Houston), Texas.
Despite the presence of the Pentagon and nearby military bases, only 6.9 percent of the adult population in Washington, D.C. consists of military veterans, more than 40 percent below the national average.
Simply, the cities where most of the financial, political and military decisions are made are the places where you are the least likely to have a vet as a neighbor.
There are swaths of rural America with below average proportions of vets. The Delta, parts of the Southeast, West Texas, Utah, Kentucky (and southwest Virginia) and the Rio Grande Valley all have below average veteran populations. Many of these areas (the Delta, the Black Belt, the Valley and southeastern Kentucky) are also persistently poor areas of rural America.
The 50 counties with the highest percentages of vets are listed below. Many are near military bases.